Dec 31, 2005

tomorrow the world

Google Jim Anderson (not as a phrase) and my site pops up sixteenth, right before Scottish Nudibranchs. Take that, Archidorus pseudoargus!

top ten stories of 2005

The only top ten list that really matters.

bah humbug

Today's gem from the letters to the editor:

I felt a sadness come over me after I left shopping at the Capital mall. Christmas was missing. No grand Christmas trees, no Christmas carols, etc.

The joy of feeling Christmas was not present.

But the retailers did not mind pushing holiday sales at us.

The young do not know what has happened to the celebration of Christmas by the few who object. I do not understand why those few have such power to change something that has been with the many for so long?

Jeane Millar,
Come off it, Ms. Millar. Jesus is happy that he's no longer expected to help sell Barcaloungers, nose hair trimmers, perfumed candles, DVD players, diamond pendants, foot massagers, yards-o-beef, and everything else Christmas moves off the shelf.

The War on Christmas Crap is over, and Jesus won.

Dec 30, 2005

clean bill of health: part II

"Air and barium were instilled retrograde to fill the entire colon through an inflated rectal balloon catheter. No intrinsic filling defects or extrinsic mass impression is demonstrated. No apple core lesions are present. The proximal appendix was filled and unremarkable. The terminal ileum was refluxed. Incidental note is made of ileal cecal valve lipomatosis."

I think this means I'm okay, but a translation would help.

clean bill of health

Unless I hear otherwise from the doctor, my BE results were "beautiful." I got a glowing commendation from the radiologist, who said I was the "most complacent" patient she'd ever seen.

I had been led to believe that a barium enema is forty-five minutes of hell. "I wouldn't ever want one," reassured the tech. "Not ever." But after the discomfort and outright torture of the sigmoidoscopy, a gallon of cool liquid coating the bowels was downright pleasant.

I don't yet know what's causing my troubles, but at least it's not cancer. Whee!

the four things meme

Thank you, Bora.

Four jobs you've had in your life
1. Toiling at Briggs Nursery, hauling shrubs hither and yon for pittance.
2. Sales clerk and one-hour-photo guy at a small Radio Shack dealership
3. Computer sales for Circuit City, back when they paid commission and the reps actually cared
4. High school English teacher (2002 to present)

Four movies you could watch over and over
1. Amores Perros
2. Nine Queens
3. Kill Bill, vols. 1 and 2
4. The General

Four places you've lived
1. Gimli, Manitoba (born there, 1979)
2. White Sulphur Springs, Montana
3. Longview, Texas
4. Olympia, Washington (at present)

Four TV shows you love to watch
I don't have cable, so all of these I watch on DVD, thanks to Netflix
1. Arrested Development
2. The Simpsons
3. Deadwood
4. The Sopranos

Four places you've been on vacation
1. Washington, DC
2. Most of Interstate 90
3. Aguascalientes, Mexico
4. Cape Town, South Africa

Four websites you visit daily
Only four?
1. Pharyngula
2. Dispatches from the Culture Wars
3. Hit and Run
4. The Olympian

Four of your favorite foods
1. Green bean casserole
2. Nanaimo bars
3. Mom's homemade pizza
4. Chicken, any style

Four places you'd rather be
Honestly, I'm completely happy in the Pacific Northwest, in this kooky town we call Olympia. Sorry.

Four albums you can't live without
1. Cake, Motorcade of Generosity
2. Ben Folds Five, Whatever and Ever Amen
3. The Postal Service, Give Up
4. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

I'm not passing this on, per principle. Take it up as you please.

Dec 29, 2005

countdown to the barium enema

19 hours, 58 minutes
You'd think that since the sigmoidoscopy came back negative, I could relax, trade in my laxatives and suppositories for pizza and popcorn, banishing forever all memory of the moment my duodenum was blown up like a balloon as I lay gasping and swearing on a cold table, clutching my wife's hand and whatever dignity was still within reach.

You'd think that only because you've forgotten the second half of the show, the barium enema. My doctor (I use the word "my" loosely; after all, I'm at the mercy of an HMO, and I've never actually met my "real" doctor), cheerily empathetic, gave me the hope and strength to continue. "You're going to be Mr. Flatulence today," he said. "Then tomorrow, the real fun. That barium enema's no picnic. You keep thinking, how can they put a gallon of that stuff in there?"

So I'm still on a steady diet of laxatives and apple juice, biding my time, secretly suspecting that another negative result is on the way, and all this torment will be for naught.

1 hour, 28 minutes
I'm one suppository away from the final procedure. I spent most of last night flitting in and out of sleep, nauseated from bisacodyl, which seems much more violent to the system when taken orally.

Does it help to think I'm just like a supermodel getting ready for the runway, what with the ascetic diet and metaphoric self-flagellation?

No, it doesn't.

Tonight I can eat again. That helps.

Dec 28, 2005

countdown to the oscopy

[a work in progress]

See "gallows humor" for the backstory.

24 hours, twenty minutes
I've begun the Great Apple Juice Drink-off of 2005. The only pain I'm feeling is regret, for the juice is stocked in a fridge overflowing with Christmas bounty, which I struggle to not think about whenever tippling. The real fun starts later this evening, when I have to drink a twenty ten-ounce bottle of green liquid to start the laxative process that will continue well into the morning. But none of that now. Now is the time to blog, to revive a waning Sudoku addiction, and, mostly, to savor the sweet goodness of generic apple-water.

18 hours
1. Chicken broth ain't all that.
2. The Sopranos is a forty-eight minute food commercial. They're eating in every other scene. At least one new pasta per episode.
3. The Bank Dick clocks in at seventy-two minutes. Why don't they make short movies these days? Phone Booth is the last contemporary film I remember seeing that was under ninety. Probably seventy, eighty percent of recent cinema would be recognized as ingenious if the director found a way to lop off fifteen minutes. (Syriana is probably the worst offender.)

16 hours, 19 minutes
I down the entire ten-ounce bottle of green goodness. A disappointment: the elixir gets its color from the bottle. It's actually clear, lemony, almost pleasant--imagine someone dumping a saltshaker into your Sprite as a joke. I won't blog what's going to happen in a half hour or so. Suffice it to say that magnesium citrate is a laxative.

13 hours, 23 minutes
For the record, that's a different James Anderson.

13 hours, 14 minutes
Sing along with Buddy Hackett!

Shipoopi! Shipoopi, Shipoopi
The girl who's hard to get!
Shipoopi. Shipoopi, Shipoopi
But you can win her yet.

3 hours, 4 minutes
"Borborygmus" is the goofiest example of onomatopoeia, ever. This morning it's a symphony of rumbles, clicks and whistles, as if someone has stuffed a gray whale in my gut.

The order of business: shower, shave, suppository, at-home-enema, then two minutes down the street to Group Health for the flexible sigmoidoscopy.

28 minutes
I'll spare the details of the last two hours. I will say, though, that my wife is very, very brave.

Dec 27, 2005

Jones Soda National Holiday Gift Pack

Boxing Day 2006. Older sister had brought the titular libations, scored at a "white elephant" gift exchange. I set out teacups. Bro-in-law Jon poured, we toasted, then sampled. Hilarity ensued as we retched and laughed 'til our stomachs ached.

I have ranked the sodas from best--least horrible, really--to worst.

Cranberry Sauce
Medicinal, almost sweet. The only one remotely close to drinkable, in the way that cough syrup is drinkable, when your sinuses are inflamed and you've lost your sense of taste.

Turkey and Gravy
Of the "weird" flavors, the blandest. Perhaps it's entirely psychological, but it feels greasy going down. Tastes a bit like watery chicken broth left out in the sun for a week.

Wild Herb Stuffing
"It tastes like bitters," according to my wife. I've never imbibed bitters, so I'll describe it as combining Turkey and Gravy Soda with Pinesol.

Pumpkin Pie
Ever scooped out raw pumpkin with your bare hands, snacked on the sloppy yellow fibers, licked the juice from your fingers? No? Of course not. Raw pumpkin is gross. So is this.

Brussels Sprout with Prosciutto
Noxious, abhorrent, disgusting, nauseating, loathsome, obscene, filthy, nasty, repulsive, sickening, vile. My wife couldn't quite bring herself to drink some, and I wish I hadn't found the nerve. I very nearly vomited, and spent the rest of the afternoon smelling and tasting it in everything. (It didn't help that my mother brought out broccoli cheese bread as a snack later that day.) It ought to come with a warning label. Don't drink it. I implore you.

General Caveats
Since my parents are teetotalers, we had no shot glasses in the house, and were forced to use the aforementioned teacups. Wine is poured into a wide glass so the full bouquet reaches the nostril. In the same manner, drinking these sodas from a broad-brimmed cup means experiencing the worst of the flavor. If you are foolhardy enough to follow in our footsteps, use shot glasses and drink quickly. If you don't, stand near the sink or keep a bucket handy.

Consider yourself warned.

Update: Jeri and pals were smart enough to drink from the bottle (remember what I said about the bouquet?), while PZ says I'm a "braver, weirder man" than he.

Bye Bye Dembski

Or, The Sycophants' Chorus

We love you, Dembski,
But now you're through
And bid your faithful adieu
We've never once been untrue
Oh Dembski, we love you.

[Via PZ]

Dec 24, 2005

all the best to you and yours

Tomorrow, whether you're celebrating Christmas, the first day of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa Eve, Washington crossing the Delaware, Gorbachev's resignation, the British surrender of Hong Kong, or any combination of the above... good food, good fellowship, good times for you and all accompanying.

I'm off to visit two sets of families. Enjoy my absence as I'm sure you always do.

Dec 23, 2005

Leaked Email Reveals Rift between God, Jesus

A Corrugated Times-Dispatch exclusive

The text of an unredacted email is published below. It was leaked by an anonymous source in the offices of Triune Being LLC, and refers to another appearance by the second member of the organization, in a Jacksonville restaurant's nacho pan.

Subject: Nacho Pan Fiasco in Making
From: God []
To: Jesus []
CC: Holy Spirit []
Priority: Urgent

Jesus, Jesus. You've done it again. Windowpanes, toast, and now this? Don't you understand this makes a mockery of all our efforts? Don't you have better things to do?

I specifically ordered you to cut out the cheesy miracles. (No pun intended.) Cease and desist, or the Spirit and I will be forced to take action against you. You know how the shareholders feel about your silly pranks.

I'm seriously considering coal in your stocking this year.


how to make sure sperms are alive

1. The mirror test.
Hold up a mirror to the sperm's mouth. If it fogs over, the sperm is still breathing. Note: sperms, having tiny lungs, breathe weakly. Place the mirror within a millimeter or two of the sperm to register respiration.

2. The pulse check.
If the mirror test fails, place your index finger on the wrist (or, if unavailable, the carotid artery) of the sperm. If a pulse is detectable, the sperm lives.

3. The music effect.
If an i-Pod or other portable music device with headphones or external speakers is handy, play a tune (preferably jazz or classical), holding the headphones close to the sperm. If the sperm is still alive, it will begin to swim in a figure eight pattern.

4. The poke test.
With a needle or other sharp object, poke the sperm to see if it shouts.

5. The EEG.
If tests 1-4 do not succeed, the sperm may still be alive. Using the miniature Electro-Encephalograph included with recent editions of Doctor Barbie, record the sperm's brain wave activity. Movement on the screen indicates a viable sperm.

[fiftieth in a series]

Dec 22, 2005

yet again, no comment

"Moongazing reveals the chaotic world of Uranus."

this oughtta make the Mariners stronger

You can bet the AM stations are aflame over this brilliant move.

where to dine in Olympia: Southern Kitchen

Update, 2008: Southern Kitchen is no longer open, having been replaced by Ranch House BBQ, which moved over when its original location was destroyed by a wall of mud. Ranch House, it should be noted, is a fine restaurant, some of the best barbecue in the region.

A colleague described Southern Kitchen, the new offshoot of its acclaimed Tacoma progenitor, as the best Southern restaurant in the state. This evening my wife and I decided to test its offerings. We were two rain-soaked Washingtonians in search of hearty cuisine.

Settling on two dishes wasn't easy--but then, little that's rewarding is easy. My wife's Cajun catfish strips were peppery with only a little of the swamp taste common to the bottom-feeding siluriform. Two pieces of fried chicken left comfortable amounts of grease on my fingers, the skin peeling nicely off the meat, the meat peeling cleanly off the bone.

We sampled each other's sides. I opted for sweet buttered corn, red beans, and cornbread dressing, a three-inch square drenched in gravy. My wife, polishing off her dressing, ended up taking home extra mac 'n' cheese and candied yams, both of which she pronounced "yumbly."

Our server was friendly and efficient (though, oddly, she seemed a bit overeager to give us a box for our extras, even though I was still elbow-deep in chicken bones).

The restaurant's hues are warm, burnt sienna and mustard, its decor sparing, unsurprising given its recency and its location in the downtown Ramada. The owner is friendly, welcoming patrons and taking the chance to visit when time allows. Prices are reasonable, averaging around $10 per entree, many including a choice of three sides and a cornbread pancake.

I declare the cornbread dressing to be the best side dish in Olympia. In fact, next time we dine at Southern Kitchen, I'm going to order a plateful and stuff myself with it, gravy and all.

The author is an unpaid blogger. He easily remains anonymous because no one knows who he is.


The restaurant is open Sunday-Thursday, 7am to 9pm, Friday-Saturday, 7am-10pm. Breakfast served all day.

621 S Capitol Way, in the Ramada Governor House, across from Sylvester Park.
phone: (360) 943-8300

Update: On Saturday, April 22, my wife and I were treated to lunch by my parents. A few observations on the differences in this second visit:

1. The floor was littered with breakfast's debris. There's no excuse for that.
2. The corncakes came right with the meal, so there was no time to savor them before trying to delve into the lunch offerings.
3. Cornbread dressing has to be served hot, because it cools quickly. My mom's came out cold; mine was lukewarm.

All in all, though, the food is fantastic, the service dependable, and the belly filled with goodness at the end of the meal. Southern Kitchen hasn't yet reached perfection, but once a few inelegances are ironed out, it'll be much like Ricardo's, the sort of restaurant you drag your friends to when you want to show off the best of South Sound cuisine.

that Drying, Enfeebling LIQUOR

The women complain that coffee makes their men impotent, and should be banned.
We Humbly Pray, That you our Trusty Patrons would improve your Interest, that henceferth the Drinking COFFEE may on severe penalties be forbidden to all Persons under the Age of Threescore; and that instead thereof, Lusty nappy Beer, Cock-Ale, Cordial Canaries, Restoring Malago's, and Back-recruiting Chocholes be Recommended to General Use, throughout the Utopian Territories.
The men respond.
Alas! alas! Dear Hearts, the Coffee house is the Citizens Academy, where he learns more Wit than ever his Grannum taught him, the Young-Gallants Stage where he displays the Wardrobe of his excellent no parts; 'Tis the Non Cons Bull-baiting,the News-mongers Exchange, the Fools business, the Knaves Ambuscade, and the Wise mans Recreation: Here it is where we have the sparkling Cyder, the mighty Mum, and the back recruiting Chocolate; 'Tis Coffee that both keeps us Sober, or can make us so; And let our Wives that hereafter shall presume to Petition against it, be confined to lie alone all Night, and in the Day time drink nothing but Bonny Clabber.
Par for the course, London, 1674.

More coffee-blogging here and here.

back from the grave

A long-dead specter rises again to beat back the foes of the poor, in the only forum (other than the static on the AM dial) a specter can access these days, the op-ed page:
Queen Christine and her flunkies do not seem to care about people on fixed incomes who are having a hard time making ends meet now and do not seem to care.

It is time we cleaned the flunkies out of Olympia and elect people who will stand up for us.

That is hard to do, as they are allowed to lie so it is hard to distinguish between fact and fiction.

Tim Eyman is coming back with an initiative for the $30 car tabs. Do you think our queen and her flunkies will pay attention?

I think not.

Jim Hendrix, Tenino

Dec 21, 2005

I like it right here

I wouldn't teach 4th grade for all the $500 gift cards in the world.

[via Obscure Store]

WASL doubt: not just for guilty liberals

Stefan Sharkansky calls Booth Gardner on "soft bigotry of low expectations" (a phrase forever ironically linked to its progenitor, C-student George W. Bush), reducing Gardner's argument to the claim that our education system is overwhelmingly Eurocentric.

But the Shark ignores the bulk of Gardner's essay, including the most telling paragraph:
It is ironic that the force behind the "single test fits all" is the big-business community. Its members apparently believe the only way to judge whether a student has successfully met learning standards is with a single measuring stick, the high-school WASL. Believe me, none of them uses a single indicator to measure the health of their business. They use a "cockpit" of indicators because they are aware that no single measure is sufficient to evaluate their operations.
Sharkansky's other significant error: assuming the WASL is objective. It ain't. On the highest-scored portions, student answers are graded by humans on a rubric, and right answers aren't enough to earn a high score.

"California Dreamer," a commentator on Sharkansky's site, puts it well:
I feel really strongly about clear and strong academic standards, and objective testing to see how well those standards are being met. But I really hate the WASL. It costs something like $60 a student to grade, while tests like the ITBS test cost under $3. The WASL shouldn't be dumbed down, it should be replaced.
And therein lies the problem. It isn't that the WASL is a wrongheaded test, but that it's bulky, time-consuming, expensive, and, ultimately, no better at predicting educational outcomes than grades, SAT or ACT scores, or the ITBS.

Don't believe me? Look at the numbers. Students who didn't meet standard on one section of the WASL averaged a 2.83 GPA in their freshman year of college [pdf]. More specifically, students who flunked the math WASL attained an average 2.7 math GPA in their freshman year. Yet under the current scheme, they'd have to retake until they passed, lose their diploma, or drop out and get a GED.

More coherent thoughts will follow when time permits.

Dec 20, 2005

gallows humor

Nine days from now I'll undergo a two-day battery of tests. Next Thursday brings a flexible sigmoidoscopy, with a follow-up barium enema on Friday the 30th. (No reason for alarm. My doctor wants a thorough investigation--easy for him to recommend--of some recent bowel issues that he couldn't diagnose with just an x-ray.)

Today I had to visit Group Health and pick up a prep kit for each procedure. I was handed an innocuous brown paper bag at the first counter, then directed to Radiology for the second parcel, the enema kit. At Radiology, the first receptionist wasn't quite sure if she needed to give me the full meal deal, since the two kits are partially redundant. Her colleague wasn't sure, either, so she picked up a bottle of bright green elixir and a blister pack of pills, shrugged, and asked if she could look into the paper bag, which was stapled shut.

"Shoot," I said. "I thought I couldn't open it until Christmas."

She laughed, her colleague laughed, and I laughed, and was sent on my way, as merry as I could be about a barium enema.

Dover really over

The long-awaited results of the Dover trial are in, and they're quite bad for the ID side.

Dec 19, 2005


This classic Sears Roebuck and Co. turntable and radio cabinet looks great on the outside, but is completely gutted on the inside. I spent the better part of Saturday tearing out the defunct, mold-infested components, and scrubbing out the interior with a strong bleach solution. I've successfully "installed" an older CD player and hooked it into the original 12-inch woofers, a rather inelegant solution.

Right now the controls are partly inaccessible under a wood panel where the turntable used to sit. The challenge is to figure out how to install either a receiver / CD player combo or a car stereo (with power converter, obviously) to permanently replace the current Mickey-Mouse setup, without offending my inherent miseritude.

I've probably destroyed whatever antique value the cabinet had by removing the components, but that's okay. It belonged to my grandfather. One of his quirks was buying high-end equipment that he rarely, if ever, used. Now the equally quirky strains of Ben Folds Five pour out of ancient speakers, making the system more than just a fine piece of nostalgic furniture.

Oh, and if any of my readers have advice on how to effectively remove musty smells from 60s-era wood, let me know.

Dec 18, 2005

the son of the mother of all top ten lists

Enjoy this sequel to last year's inaugural list.

1. Top Ten Top Ten Lists of 2005

Canadian Films

Ultra-Violent Video Games
    "Player can wreak as much havoc as he likes for no reason without progressing through the game's storyline."

History-Making Wisconsin News Stories
    Massive wind storms. FEMA screw-ups. Not just in New Orleans.

Collectible Barbies
    "She is promoted as 'equal parts ethnic princess and couture queen' and she has the most elaborate, braided coiffure you can imagine!"

Cloned Animals in Order of Birth
    "She got her name from country music star Dolly Parton, because the cloned cell was a mammary cell."

Reasons to Stop the ACLU
    Paranoia from the right...

Stories the Mainstream Media Missed
    ...and from the left.

Auto Show Duds
    "Be the first on your street to own one!"

Worst Toys
    If it's any fun, it's got to be dangerous. I want a Lord of the Rings--Return of the King Uruk-Hai Crossbow Set Including Electronic Light 'n' Sound Sting Sword!

Most Wanted Fugitives
    "Aliases: Usama Bin Muhammad Bin Ladin, Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin, the Prince, the Emir, Abu Abdallah, Mujahid Shaykh, Hajj, the Director"

2. Top Ten Jeopardy Categories Ed Brayton Has Taken For $1000, Alex

incredibly stupid statements
words that don't exist
hysterical rhetoric
psychological projection
ridiculous arguments
stone cold hypocrisy
delusions of grandeur
people trying really hard to sound sophisticated
more empty and moronic rhetoric

3. More Top Ten Lists that Don't Exist

last acceptable prejudices
honky-tonk pianos
ways to avoid dissecting a cat in high school biology
pretentious tomes
coat rack artisans
top six lists
Mozart melodies in cinema
gifts for estranged relatives
excuses for speeding that actually work

4. Top Ten Netflix Picks in the Past Year

The Battle of Algiers
Maria Full of Grace
Le Trou
Wages of Fear
The Apostle
No Man's Land
A Very Long Engagement
Ma Vie En Rose
Pieces of April
The General

5. Top Ten Movies I Couldn't Quite Rummage Up $6.50 For

The Squid and the Whale
Walk the Line
The Constant Gardener
Broken Flowers
Pride and Prejudice

6. Top Ten Search Terms Leading to This Blog, Which For Some Reason or Another I Haven't Blogged About

philosophy dingbats
classroom germ reduction
make your own rap group
furby maintenance
sleep deprived international baccalaureate
thicker skull syndrome
homosexuality manifested in the courtroom
sins of the 12 disciples
blue raspberry cult belief, philosophy
America's nerd

7. Top Ten Songs I Haven't Heard

Run It!, Chris Brown
Don't Forget About Us, Mariah Carey
Laffy Taffy, D4L
Grillz, Nelly and friends
Photograph, Nickelback
Gold Digger, Kanye West with Jamie Foxx
Stickwitu, The Pussycat Dolls
When I'm Gone, Eminem
My Humps, The Black Eyed Peas
Because of You, Kelly Clarkson
(Any resemblance to Billboard's top ten from the week of 12/24 is entirely coincidental.)

8. Top Ten Groan-Inducing Titles at Reason's Hit and Run

C-3 PO'd
Aynal Retention
Hoppeing Mad
Stop Making That Orfful Noise
Juan Some, Lose Some
Sovereign ImMOOnity
Urine the Nurse-State Now!
Use the Farm, Cuke
Raich, Raich Against the Dying of a Right
Brother, Kanye Spare a Dime?

9. Top Ten Wars From Which "The War on Christmas" is Diverting Precious Resources

The War on Poverty
The War on Spam
The War on Drugs
The War Against Boys
The War on Terror
The War on AIDS
The War With Grandpa
The War On Obesity
The Warre of All Against All

10. Top Ten Quotable Quotes From Yours Truly

"Nerds of a feather blog together."
"Ask yourself: would Thomas Kinkade ever paint a nude?"
"Tiny flakes scraped from the armpits of the Keebler elves."
"The Blogosphere reportedly burned a stack of letters in the fireplace this morning, eyes rimmed red after a night of sobbing."
"Objectivity (noun). Superiority of hindsight."
"Jesus moved through the crowd, grabbing a sandwich from an unsuspecting bystander."
"I was lured in by her glowing green eyes, and trapped like a mackerel in the seine of purple hair that fell down her back."
"Active verbs are sweaty verbs."
"If you eat beef, or are related to someone who eats beef, or know of someone who eats beef, you are at risk."
"I'll swim in filthy lucre, and your children will become little Tolstoys and Woolfs. Woolves?"

Dec 16, 2005

someday they'll have their own blogs

Wit and wisdom from today's editorial page:
"These loafers and losers deserve our scorn — not our charity."

"Are the terrorist acts a tenet of the Muslim faith? If not, good and peace-loving Muslims need to stand up and be counted! It's time we hear the silent voices."

"Don't be a doormat. Stand up for principled nonviolent measures. It's more work, but it works. Ask Jesus."
I love this town.

where's the Lorax when you need him?

Ah, progress.
Kurt Neeley, who has lived in Olympia for about 40 years, remembers a very different city when he was a kid.

“I remember when none of this existed,” he said, gesturing with his hands near the Cooper Point Village development.

“There’s nothing left on the west side,” Neeley said. “It would be nice to leave part of it with woods.”
At least there are a few trees left [pdf].

You know what I blame? Sim City 2000. Today's planners think you can just pave over the woods and replace everything with gigantic bubble-domes.

The Follicles of Narnia

Aslan: too poofy, too fake.
Tumnus: strategically-placed, thankfully.
Susan: needs a beret.
Lucy: Ramona Quimby, age 8.
Peter: ho-hum.
Edmond: ho-hum.
The White Witch: Yowza!

Dec 15, 2005

sort it out

Fifty brands of doggy breath mints. Three hundred types of electric shavers. Rows upon rows of celebrity-stalking teen magazines. Thirty action flicks playing at the googleplex. For the addled consumer immobilized by a surfeit of seemingly identical choices, a top ten list is a life-saver.

To bust you out of the paralysis of overanalysis, your amiable host will soon publish the greatest top ten list of them all, the sequel to last year's edition. Stay tuned.

save Wikipedia

This sort of crap makes me furious.
A cursory search today suggested that these procedures - which require contributors to register basic details before posting articles - were being defeated by a relentless wave of vandals, apparently co-ordinating their assaults from a series of chatrooms dedicated to its demise.
I love Wikipedia. It's a great initial resource, a quick and easy way to figure out what the heck someone means when they talk about the nomenklatura or Atmosphere or coordinate covalent bonds. Vandalizing Wikipedia is a crime against humanity's right to instant gratification.

Dec 14, 2005

Activist Judge Cancels Christmas

We all saw that one coming.

(Next thing you know, it'll show up as serious analysis on the O'Reilly Factor.)

all politics is local

Or, loco, in this case.

advocacy: part II

From left to right: (They all look much better in person.)

As promised
, I spent the bulk of my evening at the WEA Chinook office as legislators, teachers, and other interested persons discussed the future of education in Washington state. The three legislators who came, late thanks to interminable committee meetings, patiently listened as local educators told stories of lost electives, lost students, lost health care benefits, lost opportunities.

Though the tone was at times bleak, educators and lawmakers alike expressed optimism that with the right push from the electorate, real education reform in Washington--not just standardized testing, not just higher teacher salaries--is possible. But it's going to take a hell of an effort.

Karen Fraser opened the longest-running dialogue by talking about the upcoming battle over the WASL, our flagship assessment. "It is a raging dispute," she said. "I don't think there's any guarantee about how that's going to come about. I'm one of these ones that's in a quandary about it. What's going to happen to the kids who don't pass the WASL?" As she noted, the debate isn't so much about the WASL's existence, but about its use as a graduation benchmark, its efficacy, its length, and whether it makes educators merely teach to the test.

Teachers spent the better part of a half hour demonstrating exactly how the WASL is doing just that. As someone whose debate class was dropped in part to make room for more remedial classes, I can sympathize. As my colleague, David Johnston, put it, "It's an example of so much good energy being focused on a narrow perspective. Vocational education, alternatives are being sacrificed in order to get students to pass the WASL... It boggles my mind after 15 years that shop classes and extracurricular activities are being cut."

Of the three legislators, Brendan Williams voiced the greatest skepticism about the benefits of the WASL. "I've taken a good number of standardized tests," he said. "I've taken the ITED, OlyAlt, ACT, SAT, GRE, LSAT, even the ASVAB. I don't put a whole lot of stock in standardized tests being more than a snapshot in time."

Still, the test is likely here to stay. Fraser pointed out that proponents would have to delineate a real plan for the state to meet its standards. Even the most WASL-sympathetic member of the panel, Gary Alexander, who spoke of all the students he's met telling him to "stay the course" on the WASL, admitted that right now the situation looks bleak, since everyone has to "come together" to get the great results other states have noted when tests are tied to graduation. Alexander pushed the issue back toward the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Terri Bergeson at the helm, since the WASL is largely its doing. The legislature is funding the voyage, but the OSPI has to steer the ship.

An hour into the conversation, I stood up and spoke about class sizes, reading this passage by one of my students.
In the states of Washington and Oregon, I think that a way you can improve education is to limit or reduce the size of all classes so there are 15 people in a class, max. If you reduce the size of classes, then each individual student can receive more attention, and because of that, their grades will rise from the increase of attention. If you receive more help, the problem that you needed special attention with will stick in your head more. The downfall of bigger classes is that there are too many student for each teacher and the teacher winds up getting oferwhelmed in questions and gets distracted from other people that will wind up getting worse grades thast will reflect badly on the student, making people think less of him or her.
I closed by asking, "What is your commitment to reducing class sizes?" (Healthy applause followed.) All three expressed a strong commitment to the concept. Alexander, in particular, pointed out that Washington's voters sent a pretty clear mandate in the form of I-732. Fraser doubted that the initiative could be afforded given the current tax structure, and called for a state income tax as a remedy, while Alexander claimed that with some creativity the legislator could keep its promise and maintain the fiscal status quo.

Pension guarantees, health care packages, and adequate compensation also garnered mention, but only toward the end. When the forum finished, I handed typed copies of the students' statements and questions to the three, and promised them I'd email them. I'm considering inviting all three to speak at Capital (I'd be happy if even one could make it.) I'm sure my sophomores would be interested to hear what I heard, firsthand.

If you're a concerned area resident, I'd encourage you to contact any of the three.

Gary Alexander
Brendan Williams
Karen Fraser

Or call the legislative hotline, 1-800-562-6000.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure I was the only blogger in attendance.

the most unkindest cut of all

Buried in this humdrum, told-you-so article on Bush's recent facing-of-the-facts is a lovely Shakespearean formulation:
Bush got a more better reaction from a group of House Democrats that he hosted for a briefing on Iraq before the speech, who emerged complimentary of the president's strategy and his recent doses of candor about the situation there.


This afternoon I'm attending a legislative forum with several local district representatives. Instead of just bringing my own questions and comments to the table, I've asked students to write them. If I don't get the chance to read any of them "live," I'll at least present them in typed copies. I'll also post a response after the forum. Though I haven't blogged much about it lately, I've been thinking about the current situation with the WASL, dropout rates in our district, education in general.

For our non-Washington audience, the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL, is a standardized criterion-referenced test of basic skills and curricular uptake that, for the first time ever, sophomores must pass in order to graduate.

I'm not a "political" teacher--I don't use the lectern as a bully pulpit, preaching to my students about the value of (or problems of) standardized tests--so the comments below aren't just students taking after their teacher. They're often provocative, sometimes underinformed, always honest.
I'm never gonna use any form of science in my future. Why do all of us have to take it? Why not just use science for pepole who know they're actually gonna use it in their future? And the same with art requirements.

Is there any way to change the elective class system to make all math classes past Algebra 1 electives?

They are hypocritical. They make us pass the WASL; why don't they do it? They think it is necessary for our education. But they didn't have to pass it, yet they are now successful politicians? They lie to the public again. They just want to make money.

What can we do about teachers who are not fun or care for their kids and just yell at them constantly?

Why do we have all these old textbooks?

You should bring up the WASL. Talk to the legislators about why it got changed to a graduation requirement. If they think it's fair to take away the graduation certificates of students because of one test, a test that won't show everything we've learned through high school. Students will have two more years to gain knowledge after taking the test.

I think that the WASL should be a test on how well the teacher is teaching students.

I have to ask what is being done for our overcrowded schools. Sure, they're remodeling Capital, but what exactly is this doing for the students, besides taking away even more classes.

What can we do about teaching about alcohol in health class? Last year they taught us more about smoking, but not really about alcohol. A health teacher was going on about how cigarette ads are corrupting children, and I asked her, umm, alcohol is still on TV, and she said it doesn't appeal to children as much as smoking. She had no idea what she was saying--have you ever seen a Bacardi and cola commercial where they drench girls in alcohol? Why do we teach about one thing, but not the other that is worse for you?

I think that the schools are under-funded. There have been numerous classes over my past two years at Capital High School where I have not been able to have my own book.

Everyone teachers, friends, parents, siblings are always telling students, friends, daughters, sons, to just be themselves. So if they want us all to be individuals and not all the same, why do we all have a standardized test? Such as the WASL, the IOWA, or even the SAT’s. We all know that everyone is not all up at the same place in the learning process. So how can we make it a law that all students have to pass the WASL in order to graduate from high school? What legislators need to realize before they pass these ridiculous laws is that a lot of students do have learning disabilities and can’t pass all the parts of the WASL. So how is this fair to those with learning diabilities? They just aren’t going to be able to pass high school because of something in their life they can’t control, but are trying to overcome it by everything they can do for themselves. Don’t you people realize that failing the WASL is just a major set back for them and makes them feel incapable and stupid when in reality they aren’t they just need some help to get up to pace with other students. Why do this to these kids when they are doing everything they can to help themselves? Also why do you have to make all the other kids worrying about not being able to pass high school just because of some ridiculous standardized test? Realize we aren’t standard people we are all individuals.

In the states of Washington and Oregon, I think that a way you can improve education is to limit or reduce the size of all classes so there are 15 people in a class, max. If you reduce the size of classes, then each individual student can receive more attention, and because of that, their grades will rise from the increase of attention. If you receive more help, the problem that you needed special attention with will stick in your head more. The downfall of bigger classes is that there are too many student for each teacher and the teacher winds up getting oferwhelmed in questions and gets distracted from other people that will wind up getting worse grades thast will reflect badly on the student, making people think less of him or her.

I don’t know a lot about the education system. But I think the class of 2008 is being forced to be the guinea pigs for the state's new regulations. I don't like that at all. I feel like I have all these new things that make my education harder that no one before me has had to deal with. I think it will backfire and make the graduation rates less, not more. The whole senior project thing is not fun either. Theres to many things that the 2008 class are getting piled on them, it doesn’t feel good to be the state's guinea pig at all.

Why did they choose us to make the W.A.S.L. a graduation requirement? Why were we chosen to have to take 3 credits of arts as a graduation requirement? Why are they making it so much harder on us to graduate? I don’t understand why they put all these new requirements on us. Why couldn't they spread them out through other years of graduates? I don't think the state has our best interests in mind. It seems they want us to fail more than they want us to succeed.

If I ran into a legislator I would ask him/her, “Why do we have teachers, teaching us subjects, that they didn’t even major in?” That would be my question. I would ask that because I am tired of my math teacher always making careless errors, and always expecting us to catch him on his mistakes. I don't see why they put under-qualified teachers in a class room and expect us to get a good education!

I dont see the point of the WASL. Why can't they assess your learning by looking at your grades? If someone gets good grades on assighntments but bombs tests because they are too tense to think and they can't remember what they studied or learned, then they won't do all that well on the WASL. So just because someone isnt relaxed enough to pass the WASL doesnt mean that they aren’t smart enough to move on to the next grade.

I feel like teachers don’t get paid enough. That is such a huge cliche, but nothing is ever done about it. Nobody realizes or at least mentions that without teachers the world would not go on, and I’m not even over-dramatizing it. You can’t be anyone in this world without education. You have to have a degree, or if you're traveling you must know the languages you learn in school. Teachers shape the kind of people we as students become and in my opinion they are completely underpaid. When you grow up and graduate out of school, the simple advice or even the little things that only teachers can give you are remembered and you take that with you and pass it on. They make such a big impact in not only thie big ways but the little. These teachers spend the little money they do get on their own school supplies or extra things to make the classroom more of an experience.

Dec 13, 2005

glory in ignorance

Where else but on the letters to the editor would someone boldly proclaim their utter ignorance of all matters scientific?
For me, the current exchanges about evolution vs. intelligent design prompt a variety of questions. Admittedly, I am a dedicated believer in the intelligent design side of the topic, which is sometimes described by the scorned word "creationism."

I make little pretense of knowledge about the theory(s) of evolution. However, with that meager understanding of those beliefs, it is my conviction that evolution is only a small speck on a vastly larger topic which leads to countless crucial questions about how evolution covers:

- The origin of the 100 or so basic elements that make up all matter.

- The laws of chemistry, physics, gravity, magnetism, electricity, thermodynamics, mathematics and energy.

- The relationship of our earth to the sun and their origins.

- Why there is oxygen, water, food, soil, etc.

- Etc., etc., etc.

I realize that evolutionists may accept that all of those just happened, but for me that is far tougher to accept and/or believe than it is to see the majesty of it all (including life and the factors listed above) as having been originated and organized by a wondrous creative power (yes, our creator) over whatever time period it took.

It is ironic that schools can and do teach evolution as science and do teach about the topics listed above but must deny the word creation because it carries a huge religious stigma. Be that as it may, what a spectacular creation it was and is.

Don Hewitt, Olympia

But it's not Hewitt's first.
It is truly sad for us Christians these days that in our country, including our local communities, there are those with few if any scriptural beliefs who at times disparage us who do have such beliefs.

Even recent letters in this column have extolled evolutionist Charles Darwin and have deprecated those who believe that all creation, including mankind, has been made by a wondrous creator.

I don't pretend to know how Darwin and his believers explain the origin of the 100 or so basic elements, nor how nor why those elements and their countless combinations could only be the handiwork of a master creator, our God.

Therein rests a basis and follow-up for my spiritual beliefs in God and the trinity. For me, it stretches credulity beyond comprehension to believe that all matter and mankind could have just happened or evolved.

Also, for nonbelievers, about a creator God and the possibility of God's and Jesus' spirit being in our surrounding atmosphere, I ask: Do you believe in unseen radio signals, cell phone signals, TV signals, oxygen that you breathe, that you cannot see?

For centuries, even to this day, there have been worshipful expressions by countless faith-inspired people around the earth who know they have connected to this wondrous God and the trinity. It is a spectacular provision for mankind who believe.
How many months until the next "evolution can't explain the elements" missive?

Dec 12, 2005

she won't tell you

She won't tell you that her brother has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of eighteen, and that's why she's been less cheery these days, though she's trying. You will find out later, when she's ready to tell. Or you won't.

He won't mention why the dark circles under his eyes are so pronounced. You will guess. You will be wrong.

She will normally say, "Hey everyone... happier now? 'Cause I'm here!" until the one day she breaks down and sobs because it's over and it's her fault for dumping him and can she go in the hall. At the end of class she will compose herself, return, apologize for the tears, and you will say it's okay, really, no, it's okay, no need to be sorry.

He will not tell you when lettuce migrates across your teeth, though you should have guessed it by the way he grinned throughout the lecture.

They will tell you what they will, and no more. At times their silence will baffle you.

You will pretend to know enough.

Dec 11, 2005

If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all.

My wife is watching Bambi.

End of story.

hot housing market

Need an incentive to get out of renting? (I do.) How about the fact that you share highly flammable walls with careless neighbors?

frank admission

I never knew much about Eugene McCarthy, a fact that reveals age more than intellectual laziness. Honestly, in moments of distraction, I was prone to mentally confuse him with Joseph McCarthy.

fear the Hawks

...not because they are a great team, but because they are a great home team, and in position to score home field advantage throughout the playoffs after today's ass-kicking of the hapless 49ers.

Now, if only the same could be said about the Sonics...

insert "War on Christmas" headline here

(No, not really.)

Dec 10, 2005

what I learned

At a debate tournament this weekend, I discovered--or rediscovered, given my sleep-deprived state--some essential truths.

1. When I am fatigued, and compensate by drowning in caffeine, my voice deepens. It doesn't get any richer, though. It has Orson Welles's depth, but Fran Drescher's resonance.

2. My speech and debate squad can function reasonably well in my absence. (I spent the bulk of my time tabulating LD ballots, waiting for LD ballots, arranging and rearranging LD brackets, and watching the tab room pass through several crises, none of which was caused by our efforts, thankfully.)

3. Irish people are "drunk, jolly ring-makers."

4. Ethnic stereotypes are alive and well. (See #3, and a few to-be-unmentioned incidents.)

5. Eminent domain, usually thought of in the tangible here-come-the-bulldozers-to-knock-down-the-family-farm sense, could also be applied to intellectual property. Just wait: soon decorabilia will be taken down and replaced by a far more profitable blog.

Dec 8, 2005

Twenty-six Lead Soldiers Storm Sylvester Park

Twenty injured, six killed in attack

OLYMPIA -- Sylvester Park was cordoned off by the Washington State Patrol after twenty-six lead soldiers established a tactical position in the gazebo around 2 p.m. Thursday.

Passersby cowered in the Light of Reason as the soldiers discharged cannons of Truth and Social Justice into the crowd. An encounter with The Dialectic left several bruised and shaken.

The insurgents clattered out round after round of Withering Arguments, firing Equality and Fraternity for thirty minutes until an unnamed trooper shot the pointy-headed leader of the group.

No police were harmed in the skirmish. An official from the State Patrol would not comment on the nature of the attack.

Jim Anderson, God

Bumped into God at the supermarket. He was knocking on a watermelon, unsure if it was ripe.

"I was trying the thump test," He said, "But the echo is deceptive. Plus my hearing isn't so great after all these years. Once I tried cracking the skin with My fingernail, but the stocker was glaring at Me. Hey, I was gonna buy it anyway, outta shame."

I picked up the watermelon, rotating it in my hands. "I look for a big yellow patch," I said, pointing to the big yellow patch. "And try lifting it up to feel if it's heavier than you'd think it'd be." I hurked it up and down, and handed it over to God.

"You don't say," He said. "I wonder if I could make a watermelon so heavy I couldn't lift it."

I forced a laugh, tossed a grapefruit or two in my basket and jetted toward the deli. "Nice talkin', God," I called out. He just sighed and went back to thumping the watermelon.

Author's Note: I am not this Jim Anderson.

[forty-ninth in a series]

riding the Narnian wave

Because Aslan knows what's best for your finances.

again: no comment

"Big brain means small testes, finds bat study"

The quote: "Perhaps monogamy is more neurologically demanding."

Dec 7, 2005

Sincerly, Jonathan Baldino

Another reason I teach English: when my students get arrested, I want them to write statements that are more convincing than this one.

the Davison crack-up continues

You simply can't make this up.
Where are all those "hit and runners" as I have grown to call them. What happened to Paul Yost, davescot and most recently, j daley and the others who leave their comments, march off in a huff, never to be heard from again. Don't they realize that results in a default in this tournament of ideas. Are they also prepared to duplicate the way proponents of the Darwinian and Fundamentalist mythologies have always responded to their critics? Are they prepared to prove that the one thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history? I have responded to what has been presented here and, if no responses ensue, I win they lose. Do they understand the rules of this very interesting game we are playing here? They may all write that down. But remember it is not just me but some of the finest minds of two centuries that have won. I still have heard nothing from the "heavyweights" and I use that term very loosely. I no longer wonder why. They are AFRAID to present their blind convictions before the clear light of the truth. They MUST NOT and for that reason alone, they CANNOT and WILL NOT. It is all so very revealing, at least to this investigator.

It is hard to believe isn't it?

"Never give in... never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."
Winston Churchill

and so to bed.

from the self-evals

Each new trimester I ask my students to stop and ponder, to answer three questions in the space of a page:

1. What have you learned?
2. What do you still need to learn?
3. What would you like to see / do (more of) in this class?

I leave the first two purposefully ambiguous, recognizing that most important learning takes place outside my classroom. These aren't necessarily the "best" evals, just the ones that stuck out to me, for whatever reason.

I would, of course, like to know everything, though this is out of the question.

I want to write fantasy stories. I don't like being tied down to facts like biography.

I'd like to learn to box the correct way because I've boxed a couple of my brother's friends and I have developed a passion for it.

Now this question is very simple. What I need to learn is to be more responsible.

Honestly, I don't need this class, because I can write well, and I can read at a college sophomore level.

I love your class. It challenges me as well as entertains me. You do a great job of tolerating me and my jokes and talking, even sometimes laughing yourself. I find it great that you have a sense of humor and don't treat me like a criminal because of what I have done in the past Thank YOU!

I need to learn to have confidence in myself. I'm very self-conscious, from my looks to my personality I worry a lot. I change for other people, not for me. I never believe in myself when I do something. I think that's why I struggle with school a lot.

Debates are another thing we need to do more often. They really got everyone into it. I haven't seen so many low-lifes actually get into a class activity before.

I have learned more on my own than I have from teachers. In school, I am taught about numbers, presidents, civil wars, and the economy. Alone, I am free to contemplate the ideas of fate, luck, and the meanings of life.

I think that you are teaching at a good pace and useful things. I really like it that we get to listen to songs and poems and try to figure out the meaning.

More people = more knowledge = more work accomplished.

I think that the far most important thing that I have learned is that knowledge is power. I already have a higher intelligence than most of my teachers (probably). I have learned that the only way to "unlock" the "hidden" power in knowledge is to be willing to accept new ideas or explanations in order to add to what it is you already know.

I would like you to read to the class more because it was nice not having other students talk but not have silence.

At the beginning of the year we would listen to music and respond. We really haven't done that in a while and I enjoyed that.

The responding to the poems and music is getting really boring and old.

Dec 6, 2005

John A. Davison orders a pizza

A play in one act

[The stage is split in half. On the left, Davison's study--a room full of books, piles of books, thousands upon thousands of books. In the center a desk covered in manuscripts. Davison occupies the chair, quill in hand, dashing out another screed. Outside it is snowing, or raining, or sleeting.

On the right, a telephone on a card table. Seated at the table a youth, gender unimportant. Maintains perfect stillness until the phone rings--as it must.

Davison: It is a frigid night, and possibly raining, snowing, sleeting perhaps. In five strokes of the quill I will have completely gutted Darwinism and replaced it with Bergism! Ah... but I am faint with hunger. To the telephone, anon! [He digs under stacks of manuscripts to find the phone. Success.] Hello, Domino's? I'd like to order a pizza. [to self] Damn these tiny buttons.

Youth: [picking up phone] Thank you for calling Domino's. How may I be of service?

Davison: I would like to order a pepperoni pizza. Extra cheese. Oh, and with olives.

Youth: Is that all?

Davison: That's about it. What's the total?

Youth: Twelve eighty including tax. Your phone number?

Davison: 555-6219. 232 4th Ave southeast... My name is John... John Davison... John A. Davison... I will not soon be forgotten. [awkward pause] I have my own blog.

Youth: [nonplussed] Uh... great. That pizza will be delivered in about a half hour. [tries to hang up]

Davison: Hold on there, youngster. Is it finished yet?

Youth: We've hardly had--

Davison: Okay... well... is it finished now?

Youth: Sir, I haven't even called the order in--

Davison: How about now?

Youth: No.

Davison: Now?

Youth: Still no.

Davison: I've changed my mind. I want salami instead of pepperoni. Genoa salami. With the fatty parts cut out.

Youth: I'm afraid we're--

Davison: Is it done yet?

Youth: Look, Mister John A. Davison, you have no idea how this works. Pizza doesn't appear magically when you say the word. It's a process. It takes time. Twenty minutes, plus driving time. Got it? Goodbye. [Youth and Davison hang up simultaneously]

Davison:[Davison picks up the phone again, dialing.] I have completely eviscerated Darwinism, you know.

Youth: You again? Look, Mr. Davison, the cheese is finished, and it's going in the oven, so--

Davison: Is it done?

Youth: Uh, no.

Davison: Then we have time to chat. You see, we deal here with fundamental differences in the way we view the world which I believe are rigidly fixed in our genome or, if I may use the term, "prescribed." I know that doen't sound right but I have no other explanation. There is also the problem of pride. Does anyone really expect those who have dedicated their professional lives to a phantom to easily come to grips with just that? Yet that is exactly what the situation boils down to. Can you imagine Dawkins conceding that everything he has ever written is meaningless drivel? In a way it is a blessing that Gould and Mayr were spared that realization but I am have no compassion for Dawkins whatsoever. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the inevitable. We shouldn't have to wait much longer.

Youth: I'm not sure exactly what you're talking about--

Davison: Well I guess nobody wants to hear about how many times life may or may not have been created. That is too bad. I may present that evidence anyway. For the moment let me explain how I intend to go about it.

Youth: [Slams phone down] Asshole.

Davison: [not missing a beat] As long as there exists simple criteria sufficient to account for a common ancestor, one can assume that such an ancestor existed. However, even that may not be so because it is possible that organisms which share a common genetic background may have independently aquired that condition through separate and independent evolutionary events. That is to say that evolution may have been repeatable. I do not favor this view but it cannot be eliminated at present.... Ah... What's that beeping noise? [Looks quizzically at the phone. Hangs up the receiver. Pauses. Picks it up again.]

[masking voice with an atrocious accent.] Ees thees Daw-mee-nose?


Update: Thanks for the link, PZ. Welcome, Pharyngulans. Check out "search me" for other humorous pieces. Update update: Davison has saved the best for last.

Update update update: Not content, Davison runs for office.

Dec 5, 2005

an update to the observation

A month ago I noted that Timothy Sandefur was cited in a Lincoln-Douglas debate round. (For those of you unfamiliar to the activity, it involves two nerds locked in mind-combat for forty-five minutes, tossing out phrases like "I'm going straight down the flow" or "cross-apply my second contention." Watch at your own risk.)

Lo and behold, Sandefur's back with a run-down on the non-backlash after Kelo. What's the upcoming LD topic? That's right. Eminent domain.

It'll be all Sandefur for two months. I can't wait!


My brother's blog has been nominated as a finalist for the designation "Best Religious Blog." It's not just about my brother, though--Mere O is a group of smart Christian blokes. They'd be sure to win if they posted in amounts commensurate with their collective intelligence.

Dec 4, 2005

no money down

Gonzaga v. Washington. Bulldogs by three. (Update: wrong. The Huskies are Final Four material this year.)

Seattle vs. Philadelphia. Seahawks by seven. (Update: Wrong again--and holy crap! Three interceptions--two for TDs--and a fumble recovery for a TD, and it's 42-0 with 14:45 left in the third quarter!) (Update update: And that's the final score. Unbelievable.)

beef: where is it?

Dembski, while slamming the Templeton Foundation's lack of support for Intelligent Design, makes an interesting claim:
I frankly doubt that there is one research paper published in the natural sciences (I’m not talking about medical journals that discuss the efficacy of prayer in healing) that acknowledges the Templeton Foundation as having provided essential research support (e.g., in the form of salaries for lab techs, lab equipment costs, etc.) for that project to be completed. Templeton supports research in that fuzzy new discipline that it has largely invented, known as science-religion, and not in science per se.

I know for a fact that Discovery Institute tried to interest the Templeton Foundation in funding fundamental research on ID that would be publishable in places like PNAS and Journal of Molecular Biology (research that got funded without Templeton support and now has been published in these journals), and the Templeton Foundation cut off discussion before a proposal was even on the table. [emphasis added]
Now, Mr. Dembski, will you provide the titles of those papers? Strangely, they are nowhere to be found on the Discovery Institute's (recently updated) list of peer-reviewed research.

Update: Spent an hour slogging through citations (thanks, Scopus--and Evergreen library card-toting wife!), and have come to one definitive conclusion: if Dembski is right (and there's no reason to assume he's prevaricating, other than his previous "street theater" hijinks), then the research was performed by someone who isn't a ranking member of the Discovery Institute. We eagerly await the revelation.

Update Update: Wait no further. It's Douglas Axe.

Behold the power of the internets:

"Estimating the prevalence of protein sequences adopting functional enzyme folds," Journal of Molecular Biology 341 (5), pp. 1295-1315

"Extreme functional sensitivity to conservative amino acid changes on enzyme exteriors," Journal of Molecular Biology 301 (3), pp. 585-595

"An irregular β-bulge common to a group of bacterial RNases is an important determinant of stability and function in barnase," Journal of Molecular Biology 286 (5), pp. 1471-1485

"Active barnase variants with completely random hydrophobic cores," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 93 (11), pp. 5590-5594

Update³: Well, so much for the "bombshell." It's our old friend, who Dembski declared was already calculating specified complexity.
Internet mavens have been pestering me for actual calculations of complexity involved in such systems. I address this in my forthcoming book (_No Free Lunch_), but such calculations are out there in the literature (cf. the work of Hubert Yockey, Robert Sauer, Peter Rüst, Paul Erbrich, Siegfried Scherer, and most recently Douglas Axe -- I'm not enlisting these individuals as design advocates but merely pointing out that methods for determining specified complexity are already part of biology).
However, and most important, Matt Inlay already debunked the relevance of Axe's work to Dembski's conception of Intelligent Design in a devastating PandasThumb article.
Yes, reference 31 is Axe 2000. Rather than tone the comment down, Dembski apparently decided to bump his claim up a notch or two. Now “preliminary indications” has evolved into “strong evidence”, and “perturbations” into “small perturbations”. Again Dembski implies that 30 amino acid substitutions is “gradual”. So even though Dembski himself admitted over a year ago that this claim was unsupported by Axe 2000, he felt no obligation to leave it out of future writings. Why correct when you can just reassert?
And now Axe is "fundamental" to ID. And the beat goes on, badumdump, badumdump...

Update4: I notice that Dembski cites Axe in his (never-used) witness report for the Dover Trial [pdf or html]

Final Update: Now that we know the Discovery Institute funded Axe (at least once, if not more), the omission of his work from their list of ID papers is curious. They've never been shy about trumpeting work that's only tangentially (or, arguably, not at all) related to ID--so why leave Axe out? Is the non-applicability of his research obvious even to DI's propagandists?

Dec 3, 2005

no comment

Think about reading this (out this month), a work by Almighty God for the salvation of our nation’s souls: Our country’s falling into the Abyss of Misery faster than the Indy 500, faster than a fully-loaded-747. But, yet, our novel has a plethora of extremely helpful insights; engrossing wit, sardonic satire; and basically straight-forward-Jesus that’d make anyone realize this is only a test of our Finite Existence.

We talk of a Heavenly Scent, an ardent desire with the whiff of a definite locale, while we bolster the Great Beyond with the passion of a magnanimous madman: Full of some gorgeous, panoramic, tall-true-tales that’ll make U.S. yearn and sigh for Heaven Above. A novel of short-stories, quotes, prayers, poetry, heartbreaking/hardcore hilarity, aggressive conundrums, and a collision substantial from a severely-head-injured-Catholic. At the risk of sounding too verbose, friend, far beyond any sinful mortal, I use the personal pronoun ‘WE’ because I didn’t write this. I only held the pen.

Read our novel, America. Then, you’ll be able to see with enough vision to find your Way outta the stagnant hole mosta U.S. have dug ourselves into. What you’ll find in our wonderful, fruitFULL, dynamic novel is a treasure, unlike any other. If you decide to read this indelible script, here’s the next step: Get in touch with my CPA, Edward Foree, at 1-800-266-9111.

Long Live Christ the King!

[FI = Latin prefix for ‘FAITHFUL’;
DO = Japanese for ‘WAY’ or ‘PATH’]
[found on Hit and Run]

Dec 2, 2005

artificial ballywho

From these results...
Even after accounting for factors such as the age of the drivers and the condition of the vehicle, the researchers conclude that cannabis caused a significant number of the fatalities, with 2.5% of the crashes directly attributed to cannabis use. Alcohol was the direct cause of about 29%.

Using cannabis and alcohol together was 16 times more risky than driving with neither drug in their body.
...come startling recommendations...
“These shocking results prove beyond doubt the dangers of drug-driving, and of mixing drink and drugs before getting behind the wheel,” says Mary Williams, chief executive of Brake, the UK’s national road safety charity.

“We need to see the government doing targeted, prime-time TV advertising on the issue of drug-driving, and we desperately need to see drink- and drug-driving being discussed with young people as part of a compulsory health and safety curriculum at school and during novice driver training," she adds. "We also need to see a national roll out of roadside drugs-testing by the police to catch drug-drivers before they kill or injure innocent road users."
...ignoring the far more significant factors...
The researchers found it was younger drivers, more often male and driving older cars, mopeds or motorcycles, who were most likely to have taken cannabis. A total of 681 drivers tested positive for cannabis (7% of all the drivers in the study), while 2096 drivers illegal concentrations of alcohol in their bodies (21.4%).
...and replacing reasonable alarm with hysteria.

[forty-eighth in a series]

Dec 1, 2005

mad cow jello risk

The facts:

1. Jello is made from cows' bones.

2. Cows eat cows' bones, which are ground into their feed. Whether it is in the form of jello is a matter of controversy, and investigations into meat packing and rendering processes have been repeatedly squashed by government agencies.

3. Mad Cow disease turns cows' brains into jello. Its effect on their bones is largely unknown.

4. Lime jello (also known as "green jello") has the highest bone-to-sugar ratio of any jello flavor.

5. Lemon jello (also known as "yellow jello," which rhymes) has the lowest bone-to-sugar ratio.

6. Jello jigglers are fun to eat.

7. Carbonated jello is the greatest invention in human history, beating out the personal computer and the printing press in a recent poll of professional historians conducted by Smithsonian Magazine.

8. Pasteurizing jello by heating it to 125 degrees Centigrade for upwards of twenty minutes reduces the risk of Mad Cow infection by 112%.

9. The average American eats fifty-two gallons of jello in a lifetime.

10. Vegans do not eat jello. Not even green jello.

Disclaimer: Jell-O is a registered trademark owned by a multibilliondollar conglomeration that would probably sue me if this weren't obviously satirical. If you thought this was serious, you are probably inflicted with early-onset Mad Cow disease. (That, too, is satirical. But not far from the truth.)

[forty-seventh in a series]

for links and kind words

Cheers to Matt, Naomi, Murky Thoughts, and the Teacher/Ref/Poet.

for finals week

When one compares "Tuscaloosa Knights" to "Tuscaloosa Nights," it becomes very difficult to accept Vice's contention that he doesn't understand the meaning of fair use. Not only does he hold a PhD in English, and not only does he enforce university plagiarism rules when he grades papers at Mississippi State, and not only does his employer expect him to model ethical behavior for his students, but his lifting from Carmer is so breathtaking in its sweep that Vice's feigned ignorance starts to sound like that of the 18-year-old college student who, when confronted with a heavily plagiarized paper, sheepishly claims, "I guess I didn't know where to put all of those quotation thingies." You knew, Brad, you knew.
The offender in question: aptly-named Brad Vice.

[thanks, Arts and Letters Daily]

again with the demon drink

I drink caffeinated coffee about once per week while visiting my parents, tippling whenever Mom presents a plate full of chocolate goodies and fresh-brewed cup o' java.

Magic happens. When I sit at the piano, my fingers fly over the keyboard. (Same for the drums, except make that sticks and tom-toms.) In dinner table conversation, my humor senses prickle. The world is sharper-edged.

Coffee works. At last, neuroscientists are figuring out how.

See also: sip to your heart's delight